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Author Topic: The class issue  (Read 22328 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: July 22, 2002, 02:38:16 PM »

Hi everyone,

I finally had the chance to sit down and parse out this issue. To give you the short form, the term "class" in role-playing design has entered that unfortunate realm in which it means so many things, it can mean nothing. So far, the Forge has been unexceptional; although many posts in the following threads are brilliant, I have not seen any actual take-it-home meat arising about the issue.

Roles and stances to some extent
Have a little class, people
Real world ideology reflected in games
Classes Vs. Reality
Character classes II

There are probably dozens of other threads that touch on the issue one way or another, especially in Indie Game Design. Links to any relevant threads are appreciated. For my money, one of the finest threads about this topic is Fundamental particles of character class as well as Marco's prequel Particles of character class.

OK, now for my gruntings and other attempts at intelligent communication. I think there are FOUR levels of "role" categorization.

1) The player's explicitly social role among the gaming group. Who's the ... leader, organizer, attention-getter, funny guy, flirt, follower, strategist, hanger-out, or any combination thereof. Fang has dealt with some of this very well in his Emergent techniques: Who's in charge thread.

2) The character's explicitly functional role among the other characters, relative to the metagame goals of play, whether explicit or implicit. If it's a combat-squad game, then we have the gunner, the techie, the brute, etc. If it's a social-intrigue game, we have the scheming skunk, the idealist-organizer, etc.

This level is a kind of interesting interface between the people and the characters, because these roles are expressed in terms of what characters do, but they (the roles) exist at the level of the social contract among the people. I expect this one to generate the most misunderstanding, because it's also the most covert of the lot in terms of actual game texts and designs.

3) The in-game character profession and activities, or the in-game explanation of what these characters do with their time, how they are perceived by NPCs, how they make money, etc. For a game like Sorcerer or Ars Magica, you can also specify what sort of magic they do. "Race" in most RPGs is another example of this level in action. It's a totally in-game definition, not to be confused with the above.

4) The specifics and customizing of a given character's abilities, which at the most obvious are the actual effectiveness and resource values. However, this level is more important than it looks, because it also includes metagame tags and categories and actual contracts-of-play, etc. If Lightning Man is "hunted by Dr.  Gore-Spatter," then that tag initiates a form of "task" or "role" (just as Gareth says in his Magic & the Metagame thread (I swear to God I'll follow up on that thread, one of these days, really, Gareth!). If Alizara the Elvish Babe is Neutral Good, then that tag initiates a form of "task" or "role" as well.

THE POINT
RPG terminology has done a terrible job of confusing these four levels almost inextricably. It began, of course, as "class" as employed in D&D, which referred almost exclusively to #2, using #4 specifications to enforce it. But I think this is a single version of a more basic problem across nearly all RPGs, which is trying to use elements of any given level(s) to enforce specifics of another level. When you combine this with an unstated desire to maximize diversity within each of the levels, you get what might be called "concept Currency" breakdown.

One attempted solution, found in many Fantasy Heartbreakers as well as in Jorune, is to create "adventurer" as a #3 category, which has a cart-before-the-horse quality. Another is to keep all the effort in #4 alone (GURPS), in which, typically, you get a bunch of plausible, skilled characters who aren't good "for" anything.

I've had most success with Hero Wars, with a very strong #4 emphasis, but also with highly adjustable abilities that permits #2 to be better expressed and developed as time goes by; and Sorcerer, which minimizes the mechanics-diversity of #2 and #4 very sharply, so that diversity of #3 doesn't really change much about the effectiveness of play. I should also cite Ars Magica, which I haven't played, for what appears to be an extremely clear combination of #2 and #3.

However, I think quite a lot remains to be said about this issue, especially in terms of recognizing that all four levels always exist, in practice. When people talk about "class-based role-playing," it's not a matter of having or not having character classes. It's a matter of how the levels are formalized and made interdependent (vertically).

Thoughts and comments, please. I still have no idea whether I've said something useful, or something which makes everyone look at me and go "Duh!," or merely made incoherent snorty noises in the delusion that I'm making sense.

Best,
Ron
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2002, 03:09:00 PM »

I had a recent epiphany about the meaning of "role" in role-playing games.  Now I see it practiced as 'role' as in "America played a major role in D-Day," as opposed to the common 'role' as in "For his role in Driving Miss Daisy, Morgan Freeman won an Oscar" (don't quote me, I'm guessing on who won).  America was not 'protraying' anything, but their role was as significant╣ participant, they took part.  Not how so many arguments start with about 'role' as in playing a part.

I think Ron's onto something here, right along those lines when he talks about how we take part and not act out one.

Fang Langford

╣ And by significant, I mean tangible and measureable; insignificant would be invisible or unnoticeable.
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jburneko
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« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2002, 03:24:25 PM »

Hello,

A) I think Ron is REALLY onto something.

B) I think the distinction Fang mentioned is important and relates to what Ron said in that much of the "Classes are Great/Suck" debate comes from a serious confusion between #2 and #3.

I'm instantly reminded of a discussion I had with the GM of the current D&D game I'm in.

GM: I don't understand why Player X likes to play Clerics.  He's really bad at it.  He doesn't follow the tenets of his God, he refuses to attend to clerical duties, etc, etc, etc all reasons pertaining to #3.

Me: I don't think that's why he likes playing Clerics.  He likes playing clerics because he's really good at organizing the devine spell lists, he prefers to hang back out of danger and heal people as needed, etc, etc, etc, all reasons pertaining #2.

I don't think much thought is ever given to #1 and #4 seems to be most often used as a reinforcer for either #2 or #3.

So my vote is that the 'meat' of the class debate comes from the clash between gaming preferences of #2 and #3 much like what happens when a bunch of dissimilar gamers sit down and talk about being 'story-oriented.'

Jesse
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2002, 07:34:28 PM »

Hey Ron,

Quote from: Ron Edwards
1) The player's explicitly social role among the gaming group. Who's the ... leader, organizer, attention-getter, funny guy, flirt, follower, strategist, hanger-out, or any combination thereof. Fang has dealt with some of this very well in his Emergent techniques: Who's in Charge thread.

2) The character's explicitly functional role among the other characters, relative to the metagame goals of play, whether explicit or implicit. If it's a combat-squad game, then we have the gunner, the techie, the brute, etc. If it's a social-intrigue game, we have the scheming skunk, the idealist-organizer, etc.

This level is a kind of interesting interface between the people and the characters, because these roles are expressed in terms of what characters do, but they (the roles) exist at the level of the social contract among the people. I expect this one to generate the most misunderstanding, because it's also the most covert of the lot in terms of actual game texts and designs.

3) The in-game character profession and activities, or the in-game explanation of what these characters do with their time, how they are perceived by NPCs, how they make money, etc. For a game like Sorcerer or Ars Magica, you can also specify what sort of magic they do. "Race" in most RPGs is another example of this level in action. It's a totally in-game definition, not to be confused with the above.

4) The specifics and customizing of a given character's abilities, which at the most obvious are the actual effectiveness and resource values. However, this level is more important than it looks, because it also includes metagame tags and categories and actual contracts-of-play, etc. If Lightning Man is "hunted by Dr.  Gore-Spatter," then that tag initiates a form of "task" or "role" (just as Gareth says in his Magic & the Metagame thread (I swear to God I'll follow up on that thread, one of these days, really, Gareth!). If Alizara the Elvish Babe is Neutral Good, then that tag initiates a form of "task" or "role" as well.

THE POINT
RPG terminology has done a terrible job of confusing these four levels almost inextricably.

...However, I think quite a lot remains to be said about this issue, especially in terms of recognizing that all four levels always exist, in practice. When people talk about "class-based role-playing," it's not a matter of having or not having character classes. It's a matter of how the levels are formalized and made interdependent (vertically).

Thoughts and comments, please.

Be glad to.

I think your "grunts" and "snorty noises" make a lot of sense.  However, I'm not sure you are arranging concepts along a line of proper separation.  I've tried really hard to coax some archetypical roles out of 'above game' play without delving into social interaction theory (as you sited in #1), but I am not sure that all the others follow as the 'levels' below.

Part of the reason #2 and #3 get conflated so frequently is because they are largely unrelated.  Personally, I went to a great deal of effort to 'out' what you call "the most covert of the lot" (#2) with my work on Scattershot's Sine Qua Non Technique.  The whole purpose was to was to formalize the players' roles with their characters within game play.  As far as the Technique goes 'down,' it brushes the tops of #3, but limits itself that way only so far as 'niche protection.'  I consider 'niche defense' as important in preventing player-to-player deprotagonization and that sits pretty much at the #2 layer.

Conversely, I did some seminal work on Fundamental Particles of Character Class which changes the 'standard' pixelated resolution of most point-based to a coarser grain, gaining some of what is attempted by so-called character-class-based systems, dovetailing into the 'niche defense' of the Sine Qua Non Technique.

Indirectly that explains how I feel about #3.  Roles of the characters within the context of the game are, I think, irrelevant to this analysis.  Why?  Because at some level it completely discludes the players.  #1 seems to disclude the characters, except the roles I site in Emergent techniques: Who's in Charge are all about positioning the players for character use.  How character ability describes player relationship to other players is the 'meat' of #2.  And #4, per my discussion in Fundamental Particles of Character Class, is about players entering into 'contract' via the construction of character.

Three out of four of your categories are about players-to-characters.  I think that means #3 belongs in a different theory.  I would suggest that since the remaining three are not a sequencial relationship.  #1 is player-to-player relationship as poised on character exploitation.  #2 seems like player-to-character relationships as roles to practice.  #4 resembles perhaps character-to-character comparisons in preparation for play.  Superfiscially that looks like a series, but I think differently.

I lay them out in a square.  The missing corner would be player-to-character (or maybe character-to-player) and conclude the value the character gives the player to the other players.  ("Gosh, Hubert, if your cloistered monk didn't know hold-out, we'd all be dead by now.")  But I think that orientation might be too covert to even consider.

What I do know is that I think that all of this is about player in-game efficacy and 'goals.'  When selecting 'character class,' when "specifying what sort of magic they do," or when choosing what "meta-game tags" to have in one's character I still see the player saying 'this is what I want to do.'  Whether it's 'these are the skills I want to employ,' 'this is the person I want to be,' or 'this is the kind of story I want to be a part of,' I still hear the same thing.  "This is what I want to do."

I can't separate any of your cases from this basic theme.  Are you talking about anything beyond that?  (If so, then it might include #3 better, so I'm game to hear it.)

Fang Langford
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lehrbuch
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« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2002, 08:35:13 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I think there are FOUR levels of "role" categorization.

1) The player's explicitly social role among the gaming group...

2) The character's explicitly functional role among the other characters...

3) The in-game character profession and activities, or the in-game explanation of what these characters do with their time, how they are perceived by NPCs, how they make money, etc....

4) The specifics and customizing of a given character's abilities...


Hi,

I'm not 100% convinced that those are the right way to define class.  To me there are also four levels:

1) The player's social/game function...the same as your (1).  GM is another example of this.

2) The character's functional "type" for the purposes of game rules.  Pretty much what you mean by (2), as well.

3) The character's role within their society.  Again pretty much like your (3).

4) The character's role within the story.  For example, is this character the tragic hero, the repentant villain, the perceptive sidekick or the talking dog.  Which seems to be different to your (4).

So I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not convinced about your (4).  Your 4th category merely seems to be a modifier of the 2nd or 3rd.  I think you are confusing the fact that category 2 or 3 are implemented in several ways within some RPG systems, with the existence of some hybrid category of class.

I think it is difficult to talk about category 1.  I can see that acknowledging players take on different social roles within a group might be useful for conducting an autopsy of a particular roleplaying group- but it would difficult to say anything about these roles in general.  Having said that, player roles, in my experience, are quite fluid.  A player is not the "leader" in either all sessions, or all games, or all groups, or even from moment to moment.

Category 2 and 3.  I think that games tend to combine these.  D&D combines them, for example is a cleric a game function or a social one.  Does the existance of a cleric class mean that my fighter character is an atheist or merely ignored by the gods?  Player aggravation with classes occurs when the players see a distinction between game and social functions, ie category 2 and 3, but the game designers did not appear to.  Cyberpunk is another example of where a character's social and game function were confused.

My category 4, is something which tends to be ignored in games.  Most "traditional" games tend to assume that all characters have the same story role- basically heroes, who attempt to triumph over adversity and improve themselves.  Particular play groups may advance beyond this.  For example in the group that I play vampire with we have (pretty much accidentally) developed proper story roles for our characters.  I guess, "narrativist" games attempt to give characters a story role, but I'm not convinced they really do so successfully.
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lehrbuch
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« Reply #5 on: July 23, 2002, 02:04:02 PM »

Quote from: lehrbuch
I'm not 100% convinced that those are the right way to define class.  To me there are also four levels:...


Actually, having re-read your original post, I think that possibly I am interchanging what you meant by category (2) and (4).  I still think that your categories are a bit fuzzy though.

If we could take as an example:  a character who is a member of the D&D fighter class.

This is a class that tells us something about how the character is treated by the rules system (eg, they have a d8? for hp).  

The class may also tell us something about their role in the fictional society they are a member of: for example, it may imply that they are a member of a "fighter's guild", or that they can speak a "fighter's language".  It also tells us something about their expected role in the micro-society of the party; they will be the one expected to hit monsters.

However it does not tell us anything about the role they are to play in the story; they could be hero or villian, for example.

Neither does it tell us anything about how the player will interact with the other players.

So, using my categories, the D&D fighter class is performing the (2) and possibly (3) functions of class.  Whilst using your categories it appears to be performing (2), (3) and (4)?  Because there is overlap between your definitions of (2) and (4)- I think.
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Andrew Martin
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« Reply #6 on: July 23, 2002, 08:09:13 PM »

I think there's a category 5; which are Gamesmaster and Player. Player has several subcategories, Newbie, Munchkin, RulesLawyer, as well.
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Andrew Martin
Skippy
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« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2002, 08:59:44 AM »

Perhaps I'm being obtuse, but...

Class systems are great because (insert pro's here) but bad because (insert con's here).

Classless systems are great because (follow same pattern as above).

Class is color.  Class is a way to help form a particular game/world/player relationship, ideally to maximize play, in whatever form.

Classlessness (?) is color.  It was created to help form a particular game/world/player relationship, etc.

Aren't these facets secondary to the social contract, implicit or explicit, among the players, particularly where GM's are concerned.  Before you can determine the subleties of class, you have to have a foundation for play, and the context of class within that structure.

Ron's introductory ranking of the functions of class seems to assume an importance of this within game context.  While functions of class/classlessness are built into the game (whatever game), the utility of the system depends on the social structure of the players, and not on the intentions (however well thought out) of the game designer.

Example 1: D&D campaign, three players: one wizard, two fighters.  Whether this dynamic works is entirely up to the social contract, largely implicit.  I.e. GM agrees not to damage characters so badly that Clerics are required.  GM agrees not to impose locked doors that require a thief.  Fighters agree to protect the spindly wizard from harm.  Wizard agrees not to set off close range fireballs, etc.  The game shifts to match the social contract, in the interest of fun (all about the fun, right?)

Or-

Example 1A: D&D campaign, same arrangement: Players understand that by-the-book GM will not make allowances.  Hirelings are added, or NPC's recruited, possibly adding depth to the party personality pool.  Wizard focuses on spells like Knock (to open doors in the absence of a thief), and Fighters develop secondary skills like stealth for scouting.  Everybody learns some rudimentary first aid, and money is spent on potions instead of newer, better weapons and armor.  All players involved agree this is a fun and challenging way to play (assumed for illustration purposes).


Where this breaks down is when the social contract is not observed, by one or more players.  I could drag up similar examples for GURPS or Sorcerer, or a dozen other games.  Note that I do not feel it is the responsibility of the GM to establish the contract, but of all the players.

This may be slightly off-topic, but I do feel that it is crucial to any discussion of class as it affects the role of characters or players.
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Scott Heyden

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lehrbuch
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« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2002, 03:45:53 PM »

Quote from: Andrew Martin
I think there's a category 5; which are Gamesmaster and Player. Player has several subcategories, Newbie, Munchkin, RulesLawyer, as well.


Hi,

I think that is, partly, what is meant by category (1).

Quote from: Skippy
Perhaps I'm being obtuse, but...


It's not too clear to me what you're driving at here, but maybe you are not using a sufficiently broad definition of what "class" means.  *All* games "classify".  Hence *all* games have "classes", even if they do not explicitly identify them as such.

Take GURPS as an example.  Here there is a distinction between a character who is a PC and an NPC.  PC or NPC is a type of class, one that reflects how the rules system interacts with the character.  

Alternatively there is a class in GURPS called "characters with a STR of 12", this class determines in-game considerations (for example, they are physically stronger than characters whose class is "characters with a STR of 11"), it also has a rules system effect (they add X to STR rolls).
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2002, 10:55:34 AM »

Hello,

Thanks to everyone for the input. I'd like to use this post for review and clarification, and I very greatly hope that people will continue this thread, based on a shared understanding up to this point.

Fang, I think we're speakin' the same language, and I think that your phrasing, "how we take part and not act out one," is brilliant. I imagine Vincent Baker would be one of the best people to champion this concept in terms of game design.

I do think that you're misreading my #3 as "discluding" the characters, which I don't think is correct. All of the four "levels" concern players, per se - characters are expressions of players, no more and no less. #3 is definitely more indirect - but it represents the "grounding" of the characters in an Exploratory (imaginative) context, without which the other levels kinda flail in space and cannot find expression through events established through role-playing. Therefore your missing corner is, I think, occupied in full by my #3 without any need for tweaking or adjusting.

Your phrasing regarding the overall purpose of these "things," in that they are a statement of the player in terms of "what I want to do," is in my view utterly, completely correct. I think that game design represents an offering, or organization of offerings, that function to "draw" or "inspire" the wants/goals of the player. And this, of course, brings us to GNS and System Does Matter.

Dan, your first post seems like it painted you into a corner, and I had a whole bunch of notes for a response, but as it turns out, your second post seems to have worked it out without me. I do think you're missing a key point, which is that these are not independent variables - game design, by definition, creates causal interdependencies among them. (The interesting thing is that different games do it differently, but that is a whole new avenue of discussion.) Therefore when you call attention to, say, the potential causal interface between the rules for a specific D&D fighter (my #4), and the category of a D&D fighter (my #2), my response is "Yes!" rather than worry that my categories "aren't separate."

Scott (Skippy), I don't think you're being obtuse, but I have to say that your comments are ... obvious. Yes, all of this is subordinate to the Social Contract. Everything in role-playing is subordinate to the Social Contract (see my recent post to Jake's GNS-decisions thread). All of this "class" discussion specifically concerns game design and game rules, and I'm attempting to show that those designs/rules reverberate up through the outermost "box" of RPG theory.

Everyone, I'd very much like to continue this discussion. If possible, I'd like to see some discussions of actual game design and how the four levels of "class" are involved, explicitly or implicitly, and how those designs pan out in play, in individuals' experience.

Best,
Ron
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damion
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« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2002, 11:41:42 AM »

Quote

 The player's explicitly social role among the gaming group. Who's the ... leader, organizer, attention-getter, funny guy, flirt, follower, strategist, hanger-out, or any combination thereof.


This catagory confuses me, as it seems to have nothing to do with gaming. Most of these roles could exists in a social group that never played a RPG together. Now you could put the GM/player classification in here, but that would seem strange as those roles do relate to gaming. Maybe I'm confused here.

All the other levels make sense to me: Here's my versions so you can see if I'm right.

#2 Relates to roles created by the goals of play, as Ron mentioned. I think an interesting thing here is how including elements in the game create these roles.  In DnD could be said to have goal of explore dungeons the the fact that dungeons can contain traps(and they are major obsticle without someway to deal with them) creates a role for someone who can deal with traps.  

#3 This usually seems to be specified as part of the genera
of the game. The utility seems a bit limited since it seems to be the same for every character in the game, mainly because you need SOME way to get all the charachters together.
For DnD it's 'adventurer', for Champions it's 'Superhero' for Shadowrun it's obvious :).

#4 Pretty Obvious.  Although I find grouping explicit mechanicl roles (eg fighter). With implict mechanical roles (Hunted by Dr. Lucky-which is more of a Bang than a role IMHO) seems strange.

Sorry couldn't get beyond the basics like your wanted Ron.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2002, 12:00:11 PM »

Quote from: damion
This catagory confuses me, as it seems to have nothing to do with gaming. Most of these roles could exists in a social group that never played a RPG together.


Gaming is a social activity. So these categories also exist in gaming, as well as other activities. Their importance has mostly been ignored in RPGs so far. That doesn't mean that they aren't important to consider, however, and they certainly make sense in a discussion of the activity of playing RPGs.

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2002, 12:25:34 PM »

Hi Damion,

No worries, if it's to be the basics, then so be it.

In my big ol' gaming essay, in the last section, I present some of the Big Context for role-playing and situate everything that's gone before (Exploration, game design, GNS, etc, etc) within the social interactions of everyone just ... well, interacting.

As far as I'm concerned, there is no role-playing that is separate from that - you can't say, X is role-playing, but Y is the social interaction among the people, so thing-X can't be thing-Y, they're different. As I see it, anything that's X is, by definition, a subset of something Y. And yes, there are things that are Y that are not necessarily X.

To give an example: Bob is playing a troll-guy fighter, Andrea is playing an elfy archer babe, and Scott is the GM. Andrea and Scott are dating; Bob eats his heart out every night because he's got the hots for Andrea so bad he can't stand it.

Any and all interactions about Bob's lonely lust, his pathetic attempts to garner attention or approval from Andrea, his occasional rebellion against Scott's rulings ... of them are Social Stuff. Some of them might not have anything to do with the role-playing at hand - like who sits nearest whom, or who gives whom a ride or gets whom a soda, etc. Now let's take a look at any and all interactions among the troll-guy, the elfy-babe, and any and all NPCs. This is the "role-playing," correct? But it all occurs within the context of the Social Stuff too. It's a box within the Social Stuff box.

Therefore, all of my "levels" about character classes (by whatever name) are Social Stuff. They have to be, just as anything to do with the role-playing Stuff has to be. Your statement that Social Stuff has "nothing to do with the role-playing" is, to me, nonsensical.

Best,
Ron
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Don Lag
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« Reply #13 on: July 25, 2002, 02:15:15 PM »

I think I have a tendency towards idea algomeration or something. Maybe that explains this:

I read the roles described by Ron and I thought I saw some sort of direct relationship with GNS. I re-read them and it's definately not a 1-to-1 relationship (a G role, an N role and an S role). However, would it be useful to describe roles in function of the decision modes they stimulate on the player??

I'm assuming that roles can be understood as the way a player takes part in the game (as noted by Fang) and that there is an urge/necessity to, in fact, take part according to those roles. I'm getting a little entangled in my own idea.... basically for a "Techie" role to be esablished upon a player the other players must expect him to effectively act his role: to "be there" when a machine is to be repaired, etc. For a "funny guy" role to be established, the other players must expect him to crack some jokes during play, etc. If the other players don't expect a certain behaviour from a player then you can't really talk about a role being established upon that player.

Ok, I'm sure someone can make that point much more clearer than me. Hoping someone got it though..

Could a player's roles be understood as the "thing" that actually stimulates him to take a G,N, or S decision? I can't exactly pan out how to explain the idea, but maybe it's enough this far for someone else to make sense of it or point out why it wouldn't work. I'll follow up as soon as I get the idea woven together.

Anyway, I can't help but being drawn to the idea that GNS should actually be GNS+Social (game decisions that promote certai social behaviours -I'll fend of that troll because it's attacking the character of a cute player). Has this already been discussed? If not then I'll take it to an appropiate thread in the GNS forum.
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Victor Gijsbers
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« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2002, 01:22:33 PM »

Quote from: Don Lag
Could a player's roles be understood as the "thing" that actually stimulates him to take a G,N, or S decision?


I think you're onto something here. Let's take a look at Ron's descriptions.

Quote
The character's explicitly functional role among the other characters, relative to the metagame goals of play, whether explicit or implicit. If it's a combat-squad game, then we have the gunner, the techie, the brute, etc. If it's a social-intrigue game, we have the scheming skunk, the idealist-organizer, etc.


Why would people assume these roles? The most probable reason is that there will be situations in which such a division of 'classes' will allow the characters to be more effective. This would appear to be a mostly Gamist concern, where the players try to beat a situation/scenario. It could also be used to give diversity to Simulation of Situation.

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The in-game character profession and activities, or the in-game explanation of what these characters do with their time, how they are perceived by NPCs, how they make money, etc.


Why would people assume these kinds of roles? Because they want their characters to blend in with the game world. It seems to me that these roles follow from Simulation of Setting.

Lehrbuch wrote:

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The character's role within the story. For example, is this character the tragic hero, the repentant villain, the perceptive sidekick or the talking dog.


This, once again, would be a division useful in a Narrativist game.

So, let's say for a moment that 'classes' are simply a way to talk about different roles from a certain GNS-perspective. I think it's not too far-fetched to claim that about the above examples. But does it also work for Ron's #1 and #4, which I sneakily didn't quote?

Not really. #1 seems to be about the personality of the gamer. Obviously, this will have a big impact on how he plays the game, but it's not something he wouldn't be without the game. Therefore, it can't be based on a GNS-perspective. (Though it might be one of the factors determining which GNS-perspectives the player prefers.)

#4 is somewhat difficult. I can't place it in a GNS-perspective, but I'm not quite sure I understand it anyway. How did 'has 14 Strength', 'is Neutral Good' and 'hunted by Dr. Gore-Spatter' end up in one category? The first and third are not a class at all, imho: the fact that a character has 14 strength does not tell you anything about what he's going to do (a 'fighter' is going to fight, but someone who is strong is going to do... wel, what? there's no reason to assume he'll actually perform feats of strength); and the fact that he is hunted by someone is more a thread in the story than an actual role he takes on. ('Hunted person' could be a role, but 'hunted by Dr. Gore-Spatter' isn't. It's too specific. Imho.)  'Neutral Good', on the other hand, could be placed under one of the previously stated instances of 'classes', as it can be a Simulation of Character tool, a Narrativist tool and a Simulation of Situation tool (probably among others).

I suggest that either #4 isn't a category at all, or someone explains it to me so I see where I'm wrong. :)


This leaves me with the idea that classes could be defined for any GNS-perspective. These would be levels that are more or less equal. They surely interact (if your 'Gamist class' is 'wizard', your 'Simulation of Setting class' had better be something compatible - like 'village wizard'.)

Ron's #1 is probably very important, but it's on another level, (it exists prior to the game, unlike all other classes), so I'm not sure we should use the same term for it.
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